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[KYRA]

"THEY SOUND CLOSE

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"THEY SOUND CLOSE." Piper stated, getting to her feet.

Jason rose and summoned his sword. Leo and Coach Hedge got to their feet too. Kyra tried, but black spots danced before her eyes, "Stay there," Jason told her. "We'll protect you."

Kyra gritted her teeth. She hated feeling helpless. She didn't want anyone to protect her. First her little unconscious moment with Jason. Now stupid hypothermia. She wanted to be on her feet, with her bow and arrow in her hand.

Then, just outside the firelight at the entrance of the cave, she saw a pair of red eyes glowing in dark.

Okay, she thought. Maybe a little protection is fine.

More wolves edged into the firelight—black beasts bigger than Great Danes, with ice and snow caked on their fur. Their fangs gleamed, and their glowing red eyes looked disturbingly intelligent. The wolf in front was almost as tall as a horse, his mouth stained as if he'd just made a fresh kill.

Kyra unclipped her charms and they quickly grew into their full size and she nocked her arrows and was ready for an attack.

Then Jason stepped forward and said something in Latin.

Kyra didn't think a dead language would have much effect on wild animals, but the alpha wolf curled his lip. The fur stood up along his spine. One of his lieutenants tried to advance, but the alpha wolf snapped at his ear. Then all of the wolves backed into the dark.

"Dude, I gotta study Latin." Leo's hammer shook in his hand. "What'd you say, Jason?"

Hedge cursed. "Whatever it was, it wasn't enough. Look."

The wolves were coming back, but the alpha wolf wasn't with them. They didn't attack. They waited—at least a dozen now, in a rough semicircle just outside the firelight, blocking the cave exit.

The coach hefted his club. "Here's the plan. I'll kill them all, and you guys escape."

"Coach, they'll rip you apart," Piper stated.

"Nah, I'm good."

Then Kyra saw the silhouette of a man coming through the storm, wading through the wolf pack. "Stick together," Jason said. "They respect a pack. And Hedge, no crazy stuff. We're not leaving you or anyone else behind."

Kyra got a lump in her throat. She was the weak link in their "pack" right now. No doubt the wolves could smell her fear. She might as well be wearing a sign that said free lunch.

The wolves parted, and the man stepped into the firelight. His hair was greasy and ragged, the color of fireplace soot, topped with a crown of what looked like finger bones. His robes were tattered fur—wolf, rabbit, raccoon, deer, and several others Kyra couldn't identify. The furs didn't look cured, and from the smell, they weren't very fresh. His frame was lithe and muscular, like a distance runner's. But the most horrible thing was his face. His thin pale skin was pulled tight over his skull. His teeth were sharpened like fangs. His eyes glowed bright red like his wolves'—and they fixed on Jason with absolute hatred.

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